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Anti-Vaccine Misinformation Has Consequences

By 

René F. Najera, DrPH

January 5, 2021

According to the Associated Press, . The article states that "[a] detective wrote in a probable cause statement that Brandenburg, 46, is an admitted conspiracy theorist and that he told investigators he intentionally tried to ruin the vaccine because it could hurt people by changing their DNA." That misinformation about the mRNA vaccine altering or changing a person's DNA is one of the first bits of misinformation falsely claimed by anti-vaccine individuals and organizations.

The . Scientists -- and people who paid attention in biology class -- know this not only because there is no evidence in any of the clinical trials (and now in the post-marketing surveillance) that the vaccine does this, but they also know this because cells have several mechanisms to prevent RNA from entering their nucleus and RNA simply cannot alter DNA. Are there viruses that can alter DNA? Yes, and they are DNA viruses that can cause cancer, like the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), for which there is .

Most recently, Andrew Wakefield, the author of a fraudulent 1998 study that sought to link the MMR vaccine to autism, has started spreading the rumor of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines altering DNA. . In his recent video that is being spread by anti-vaccine groups, Andrew Wakefield -- a former British physician whose ability to practice medicine was taken away for the MMR-autism fraud -- also states that the vaccine will induce an autoimmune disease. It does not. Finally, he also asserts that people have died from the vaccine because people died after getting the vaccine: 4 in the placebo group and 4 in the vaccine group for the Moderna trial. ( for other adverse events.)

Throughout the entire pandemic, over the recommendations and public health actions taken to try and contain the virus. Some of that bullying and intimidation . And, while much of that bullying and intimidation has been online, . With this alleged mishandling of COVID-19 vaccine by someone who fell for anti-vaccine talking points, anti-vaccine actions take a step further toward harming a large number of people. As it is alleged in charging documents, . The consequences of giving an expired vaccine could have been worse than anything claimed by anti-vaccine conspiracies.

Unfortunately, governments the world over have been unable to stave off the waves of lies and misinformation about crucial things like public health and medicine. Some cannot because of the limitations placed on them by their political constitutions. Others cannot because they're locked in an arms race with the technology that amplifies misinformation to global audiences. And then there are the social media companies that walk the fine line between allowing their users to have freedom of expression and not allowing them to spread dangerous rumors.

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